Remember grasscloth wallpaper? That textured, natural fiber wall covering that was so popular back in the 70s and 80s? Well, if you’re anything like me, you probably have at least one room in your house still sporting this retro decor.
And you know what? It was really cool at first. I loved the cozy, earthy vibe it gave my living room. But after a few years, I started longing for a change. The grasscloth made the space feel dated and dark. I craved clean, bright walls again!
But I kept putting off removing it because I’d heard horror stories about how difficult it can be. The texture, the glue, the time it takes…it was enough to make me live with those outdated walls longer than I should have.
Finally, I just couldn’t take the grasscloth anymore. I had to know: how to remove grass cloth wallpaper without losing my sanity?
After doing some research, I found removal isn’t as dreadful as I thought. Yes, it takes some work. But with the right techniques and tools, you can rip up that grasscloth in no time.
Let me walk you through everything I learned. I promise you can do this, and your walls will thank you!
Get To Know Your Grasscloth
Before we dive into removal methods, let’s look at what exactly grasscloth wallpaper is and why it can be tricky to remove.
Grasscloth wallcovering consists of two layers:
- The front “face” made of woven grass fibers that gives it that nubby texture. This is usually adhered right to the wall.
- A paper backing layer underneath that provides stability.
This thicker construction is part of what made grasscloth so popular in the first place – it added cozy texture and hid wall imperfections. But now it’s working against us!
The other factor is age. Grasscloth was trendy decades ago, so if your walls still have it, it’s likely been up there a long time. Over many years, wallpaper glue can become brittle and difficult to penetrate.
Older grasscloth also tends to be well-adhered to the walls. Back in the day, priming before wallpapering was not a common practice. No primer layer usually means very stubborn glue residue.
However, even with these challenges, taking down grasscloth is very doable. Arm yourself with the right info and tools and you’ll have it off in no time!
Should You Just Leave It?
Before you gear up for removal, it’s worth considering: do you need to remove the grasscloth?
I won’t judge if you decide to keep it! Here are some pros that might make it worthwhile:
It’s on-trend again: Textured walls are super popular right now. Grasscloth adds natural depth and visual interest.
Makes a great accent wall: Use it as a focal point or feature wall in a room while painting the other walls fresh and new.
Saves work: Removing wallpaper is a big project. Keeping some means less time and effort spent.
However, there are also some cons to leaving old grasscloth in place:
Paint adherence issues: Paint won’t bond well directly on grasscloth. It could become splotchy.
Moisture causes peeling: When painted over, moisture from the paint can make the grasscloth peel off in patches.
Can look splotchy: Related to the point above, you may end up with uneven color over the textured surface.
I weighed these pros and cons when deciding what to do in my home. I realized that while some grasscloth accent walls could look cool, for the most part I was ready for it to go.
Bottom line: Consider your options, but don’t feel like you have to keep grasscloth if you want it gone!
Get Prepped For Removal
Once you’ve committed to removing that grasscloth, there are some important steps to take before you start ripping away:
Test a corner: Lift up a folded back corner in an inconspicuous area. See how easily the grasscloth face separates from the backing. This clues you in to how readily the rest will come off.
Check wall prep: Did they prime the walls before installing the grasscloth? Primer makes removal much easier. If no primer, get ready for a stubborn scraping session.
Gather tools: Arm yourself with the proper equipment – wallpaper steamer, scraper, buckets, sponges, ladder, etc. Steaming usually works best for grasscloth.
Safety first: Turn off power at the breaker before using any electrical tools near walls and water. Protect nearby floors and furniture too.
Prep work is a key step, so don’t skip it! Knowledge of what you’re dealing with and having the right tools close by makes the process smoother.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of actually removing this stuff…
Grasscloth Removal Techniques
When tackling a grasscloth removal, you’ll likely need to use a combination of different techniques depending on how readily it comes off. Here are some of the most effective methods:
Soaking It Away
One of the biggest keys for removing grasscloth is keeping it saturated as you work. This allows the glue to soften for easier scraping.
Some good soaking solutions:
- Hot water + fabric softener: Fill a bucket with hot water and add a couple capfuls of liquid fabric softener, which helps penetrate the fibers.
- Vinegar and water: In equal parts, this makes a useful and non-toxic soaking solution. The vinegar helps break down the adhesive.
- Pre-mixed wallpaper remover: Chemical removers available at hardware stores can also be effective when diluted in water.
- Steam: A wallpaper steamer keeps the material heated and damp for soaking off all the glue residue.
No matter the solution you use, work in small sections, reapplying frequently. The key is keeping things saturated for easy removal!
Steaming for Victory
Speaking of steamers, renting a wallpaper steamer from your local hardware store is hands-down the most effective grasscloth removal method.
Yes, it takes time. You’ll need patience as you slowly steam off section after section. But the steam permeates deeper into the grass fibers, allowing the wallpaper to peel off in bigger sheets with less wall damage.
Be very careful using electrical steamers near water. Turn off power to the room and work cautiously on a ladder or platform.
The more steam and saturation, the better! For stubborn areas, apply steam, cover with a plastic sheet to concentrate steam, then come back and scrape off. Slow and steady does the trick.
Once you’ve soaked and steamed that grasscloth, a wallpaper scraper is clutch for getting under those grass fibers and scraping off the backing.
Focus on separating the grasscloth layer first, which should come off in bigger sheets with enough steam. Then target the paper backing, using your scraper like a putty knife to lift and scrape.
Take care not to gouge into the drywall too much. Some minor scraping is inevitable, but be as gentle as possible to limit wall damage. Any gouges can be repaired later with joint compound.
For really stubborn glue residue, using the scraper to gently score the backing paper before soaking allows better water penetration.Then the gooey glue comes off cleaner.
Improvise As Needed
Every wallpaper removal project is a little different depending on the specific materials involved. Don’t be afraid to improvise as you go!
If traditional steamer and scraper techniques aren’t cutting it, get creative:
- Try a pressure washer for extra soaking power (outside only!)
- Fabric shaver to gently “shave” off grass fibers
- Utility knife to score backing layers
- Wood chisel to chip off glue chunks
Find what unique tools and tricks work to tackle your particular grasscloth beast. Customize the techniques for victory!
Prep Walls for a Fresh Start
Woohoo, the nasty grasscloth is gone! But don’t tape up the drop cloths just yet…
Removing the wallpaper is only half the battle – now you need to prep the walls for new decor. Here are the key steps:
Remove glue residue: Use a wet sponge and scraper to get off any remaining paper bits and sticky glue gunk.
Skim coat gouges: If scraper damage is significant, smooth with a thin layer of joint compound. Lightly sand once dry.
Sand walls: For smaller imperfections, just sanding the walls smooth does the trick.
Wash walls: Use TSP or other cleaner to remove residue. Rinse and let dry fully.
Prime walls: Priming creates a fresh, uniform surface for painting or new wallpaper.
Ahhh, smooth blank walls ready for your new vision! Now the fun decorating begins.
Avoid Removal Work Next Time
As you bask in your beautiful new grasscloth-free walls, keep this in mind next time you decorate:
Always prime first: Priming before wallpapering prevents adhesive from soaking straight into drywall and makes future removal so much easier.
Use good glue: Invest in quality adhesives made specifically for wallpaper. Follow directions carefully for best results.
Consider removable options: Many easily removable wallpaper and fabric options now exist. Save yourself future headache!
Hopefully you can avoid removing wallpaper ever again. But if needed, you now know how to remove grass cloth wallpaper thanks to your hard-won skills!
You Can Do It!
While removing grasscloth wallpaper is labor-intensive, the feeling of relief seeing those clear walls again makes it all worthwhile.
Arm yourself with the right tools and techniques. Go slowly and carefully. I promise with some perseverance, you can get that dated grasscloth down.
Your fresh blank slate awaits! Time to finally give that room the design update you’ve been dreaming about. Let the light back in!